Mastering race day nutrition

I come from a background where our races lasted 5 to 23 minutes. We didn’t use gels, Gatorade, salt or any of the other products. My story is very different today. Since beginning long course triathlon, I’ve progressed from doing all of the wrong things to nailing my race day nutrition. In the next few blogs, I’ll provide insight on a handful of fueling topics to help you master your plan this season.

Racine 70.3: My first half Ironman.  Long training rides were fueled with a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water, maybe a gel depending on the day. I didn’t take in any calories or fluid on long runs. You’ve probably heard the phrase “nothing new on race day.” Apparently, I thought it didn’t apply to me. During the bike at Racine, I drank a bottle or two of Gatorade, sipped on some water and ate a Cliff Bar. Prior to the race, I never ate anything on the bike and I didn’t calculate how much fluid I would need. I got off the bike and already felt light headed. I bonked hard on the run and barely remember crossing the finish line. I attributed that performance to lack of experience and the absence of a fueling plan.

As a result, I knew that I would need to be a little more strategic going into the 2015 Ironman Wisconsin. I did a sweat test. I researched. A lot. I calculated how many calories, carbs, sugar and sodium I would need and devised a mix of Bonk Breakers, Gatorade, Cliff Blox, Cliff Shots, and salt tabs to match. But within the first couple months of training, I noticed that I couldn’t eat anything solid past 40 miles on the bike. I needed a new, liquid solution. I browsed the web, read some forums and found that people were having success with Ensure meal replacement shakes. If I had a half bottle of Ensure and one bottle of Gatorade Endurance I would meet what I thought to be my nutritional needs. I stayed fueled and energized through training and the race. But, I didn’t consider take the 9g protein per bottle into consideration. Protein takes more oxygen to digest in comparison to carbohydrates. What happens under physical distress? You’re probably taking in less oxygen. Kim Mueller, CS RD CSSD, says that the optimal protein target during activity is 1-5g. When you exceed that mark, the protein sits in your stomach causing a bloating feeling. I experienced that on the run at IMWI. It became painful to drink or eat anything. My fueling plan was great for the bike, but didn’t help me step up a solid run.

That brings us to Raleigh 70.3 in 2016. I was strictly using Gatorade Endurance and BASE Salt. 1.5-2 bottles of Gatorade Endurance and 1 lick of BASE Salt per hour gave me enough carbs, calories and sodium to fulfill my needs. Although this was a logical thought process, the amount of sugar I was consuming quickly became a problem. With 42g sugar per bottle, the drink is extremely sweet and it irritated my stomach. Just like IMWI, I was unable to take in much of anything coming off of the bike. I went into survival mode on the run taking everything; pretzels, water, Gatorade, Coke.  I think it goes without saying that I didn’t have an ideal run.

There were a lot of things that I would have changed about that race but my fueling plan was number one. I spoke with my coach, Steve Brandes, and he suggested that I try Infinit. Infinit Nutrition provides custom blended formulas to fit your fueling needs. You’re able to schedule a 1 on 1 consultation, use their Osmo-FitTM Widget or use Sliders to create your own formula. I started thinking, triathletes individualize everything from their training to their gear. Yet, the majority of us use products meant to satisfy the masses. I hadn’t even received my first formula and I was already hooked.

The next blog will dig deeper into what you need to build your specific nutrition plan. Until then, contact me for more information.

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